Want to Cycle Safely? Try Swagon, a Vehicle Escort App

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Swagon: on demand cyclist protection. Courtesy photo.

Swagon: on demand cyclist protection. Courtesy photo.

I’ve been an avid cyclist and triathlete for a third of my life. I’ve cycled in places all around the country and abroad. I introduced my brother and many of my friends to cycling and I met my wife on a road bike here in San Antonio. Cycling is part of who I am. But cycling in San Antonio and Central Texas has taken a turn for the worse as accidents are on the rise.

This fact really hit close to home when several people I know were involved in bike-car accidents in San Antonio, a couple of which resulted in serious injuries. I have personally been involved in two minor accidents with cars, and I subsequently read that there is more than one reported bicycle accident per day in San Antonio.

After the birth of our first child in 2012, my wife and I looked at our lifestyle and decided we just didn’t feel safe getting out on the roads anymore now that we had our little guy. But we still loved road cycling and certainly didn’t want to give it up.

I had to do something about the situation and thought, “What if there was something that could proactively keep us safe and visible out on the roads so we could still enjoy the sport we loved?”

The Swagon in action. Courtesy photo.

The Swagon in action. Courtesy photo.

That’s when the idea for Swagon hit me, “How about an on-demand escort vehicle that we could use on our everyday training rides?”

At first I dismissed it as unfeasible and silly, but when people started asking me to provide a Swagon on their rides, I explored it more. Being an entrepreneur, I took a year to do market research and write a business plan. I found that existing safety-enhancing solutions cater to bicycle commuters and leisure cyclists. They are failing the vast majority (90%) who are fitness-oriented road cyclists like myself.

I launched the service on a limited basis in 2014, and after a few months of providing Swagon in San Antonio, I realized this was actually something people wanted and the small operation quickly reached capacity.

Users have said they really like that we provide a substantial buffer between motorists and cyclists, which results in continually enhanced safety and visibility throughout a road cycling ride.

Our problem has changed from “Do people really want it?” to “How do we provide more?”

Since Swagon focuses on increasing everyday riding safety and is designed for cyclists to use during every one of their fitness road rides, it has to be easy to schedule and use. We have created a mobile device-friendly website where riders can go to schedule a Swagon for their ride group.

When a rider books a Swagon, a professional driver will drive a Swagon support vehicle to meet riders at their ride start, follow them in the vehicle during the ride to increase their road visibility and safety, record safety video of the ride to catch bad drivers, provide mechanical support, and transport gear and nutrition.

A typical group training ride with Swagon. Courtesy photo.

A typical group training ride with Swagon. Courtesy photo.

A repeated request we have received from riders is that they want an easier user experience when scheduling Swagon and communicating with us. They also want the service more widely available. To meet these requests, we are developing a mobile app technology to enhance and expand our existing service, and have launched a Kickstarter to help fund development.

The app will enable the service on a wide scale in San Antonio because it will allow us to seamlessly sync riders with drivers, very similar to the Uber or Lyft rideshare app concept.

A sneak peek at the new Swagon app.

A sneak peek at the new Swagon app.

We launched the Swagon Kickstarter campaign yesterday. Check it out here. If you like this San Antonio-based startup, consider funding our technology development. We look forward to welcoming you to the team.

Other ways to get involved with Swagon:

  • Use the Kickstarter share tools to post the campaign, especially on all your social media sites.
  • Directly ask people you know to check out Swagon and contribute.
  • Contact Swagon with ideas or ways you might like to help. 

*Featured/top image: Jerett Gordon poses for a photo with a Swagon vehicle, which provides on-demand cyclist protection. Courtesy photo.

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The Gorilla in the Room: One Cyclist Death Too Many

The Bike Helmet Dilemma: Freedom and Choice vs. Safety

27 thoughts on “Want to Cycle Safely? Try Swagon, a Vehicle Escort App

    • Hi Jim, most fitness-oriented cyclists are not “rich”, but rather middle-class (I have the full demographics if you’re interested). We think this is more of a problem with locales catering to commuters and casual cyclists and failing to address the vast majority of riders (>90%) that are fitness/recreational oriented cyclists. I invite you to visit our Kickstarter to see more, and feel free to send me a message: http://bit.ly/swagonkickstarter.

  1. I mean, really. Youre taking away any environmental benefit from riding your bike if youre paying a car to follow you. Bravo.. Maybe dont ride on a busy road or highway. There are scenic trails and backroads with little traffic. Ugh some people are so entitled.

    • Hello Again Meagan, I can see you’re passionate about this topic, and I really appreciate your dialogue. Swagon is not geared toward bicycle commuters or casual riders, but rather the vast majority (>90%) who are fitness/recreational cyclists. We encourage riders to choose safer routes, such as scenic trails and backroads as you mentioned, and for rides we host, we choose these safer routes as well. We think safety should be the primary concern for road cyclists, but we also care about the environment and seek to minimize our impact while still serving our target market. Go here for more: http://bit.ly/swagonkickstarter.

  2. I guess most of these readers are not well acquainted with cycling as a sport. These people train several times a week in large groups, making the escort extremely feasible. You know what’s not feasible? A funeral. Like the one I had to attend a few months ago for a cyclist friend who was NOT a moron. 30 people using one car to get from point A to point B is still incredibly environmentally conscious, and no cycling is not just a sport for the rich. These cyclists pay taxes too and they have just as much right to be on the road as you.

    • I’m familiar with cycling as a sport. In my mind, I hardly rode and hardly raced this past year, but still did 36 races in the past 12 months and have ridden 11,000 km since Jan 1. I ride in large groups, small groups, and do a lot of solo riding. I’ve been hit twice since 1995, the most recent was three weeks ago. Both collisions happened while approaching stop signs when I was hit by motorists who were cutting corners while making left turns. Still, this service has zero appeal to me. Moreover, I’m very, very slightly concerned this could begin a troubling trend. My concern is that the general public, and maybe even law, will come to expect a motor vehicle escort as a requirement, or at least the responsible thing to do, for riding a bicycle on the road.

      That certainly seems like a stretch today, but it is my one concern with this service. I’m as happy as the next guy to have a wheel truck following when I flat in a race, but outside of a race, I carry my own support (a tube, CO2, and $$). And given a well-timed dump truck I’m not opposed to the occasional motor pacing, but the last thing I want on any ride is a car following me around.

      I completely agree that cyclists have every right to use the road, and really any road they choose to use. At the same time, I also believe we have the right to use the road without having a follow car. A bunch of triathletes are free to have a car follow them, but I won’t characterize that as the more responsible way to ride compared to other groups who ride without a car following them.

  3. I love you Meagan! I ride my bike to work and ride for fun. I drive a car too! I can’t imagine riding around with a car tailing me, on purpose!
    Big groups of “sport” riders are obnoxious. A solo rider can move right and allow motorists to pass. big groups illigally impead traffic by not riding single file when they are impeading traffic.
    What’s really funny is most of the riders DRIVE to the starting point of their ride. In a GazGuzzler. With a Bush/Cheney sticker on it. And their bikes? $5000.00 “throwaway” carbon fiber environmental nightmares.
    Commuter cyclist generally have much more practical bikes and motor vehicles and unfortunately voted for Obama.

    • Hi Chuck, this was something we were very conscious of as well. Through a limited launch we did over the summer, we found that traffic actually flows the same or better with Swagon. In Texas and many other states, a car can legally follow behind a cyclist in this way. Our drivers are also trained to stay out of the way (on the shoulder) where possible so traffic can continue to flow. The service is not intended to clog traffic flow with cyclists hogging roads, but rather provide protection for small groups and “corral” the larger groups. Cars were usually able to pass small groups the same as if they were riding without Swagon, but they got the benefit of being more visible and motorists often gave them more space during passing. The riders in larger groups remained closer together in general and better obeyed traffic laws, and so cars had an easier time passing them and didn’t get as outwardly mad. Cyclists better obeyed traffic rules and did things like stay single file during riding where possible. When cyclists do unsafe things, we remind them and encourage and educate them about best riding practices. This helps keep motorists happier too. Please look at our Kickstarter link below, and send us a message if you want to further discuss: http://bit.ly/swagonkickstarter.

  4. Very good. I did the same thing going down one step. I’m a coach of a running group and I started riding my bike with the runners. I have a bag on the back of my bike that has med kit, extra water, gu’s and other running necessities. I ride between the water stops making sure the jugs are still full enough for the runners still out. If a runner needs help, I call and have them picked it. I can ride 20 miles on a 14 mile run, but I enjoy it and the runners appreciate it just like the riders appreciate swagon.

  5. I enjoyed the article but think this start-up is ridiculous. I ride bicycles to save money and reduce auto emissions. Paying someone to follow you in a vehicle defeats the purpose. Want to be safe? Be smart, follow laws and avoid busy roads. Good luck

    • Hi Hector, as an entrepreneur trying to be objective about this start-up, I would highly value your feedback on why you think Swagon is ridiculous. I thought so too when I first had the idea, but our summer beta test has proven otherwise (btw, it’s free to use). Go here to learn more (FAQ at the bottom), and send us a message if you want to talk more (I would like to): http://bit.ly/swagonkickstarter.

  6. I love it!!! It’s not the cyclists who are “morons” – it’s the slack-jawed texting teenagers and soccer mommies in their giant SUVs rushing to pick up little Billy. ANTYHING that will make people wake up and respect cyclists is worth it.

  7. I think this would be great as a NPO, free volunteer based service by registered drivers making the same commute. Drivers could be other cyclists, family or friends of cyclists, advocates or just good samaritans. Cyclists can notify the app of their route and nearby drivers can join them for the ride for a time.

    • Hi Kelly, you have the right idea! The difference is that we mainly serve fitness/recreational cyclists (>90% of all cyclists), not bicycle commuters. We are looking to be similar to Uber or Lyft, where cyclists schedule their ride in an app, then a driver comes to the riders in their own vehicle. See more at our Kickstarter: http://bit.ly/swagonkickstarter.

  8. Clearly there is a market for it- people want to be active and they’re not going to stop riding bikes (the law says to share the road so get used to it), drivers are not safe and they found a solution to fix the problem. I too would be willing to pay a small fee for my safety during exercise. I’m glad this cyclist found a creative solution for which people clearly have a need. Bravo. When you go to Austin or Portland, you adjust your driving habits to look for and give room to cyclists pretty quick because they’re everywhere. While accidents exist just as do vehicle accidents, . San Antonians are just not used to it and have not adjusted their driving or attitudes yet, as is apparent in the comments. Share the road!

    • Hi Kari, the basic service is actually free to use, so you don’t even have to pay for it as a cyclist. We make money in a different unique way. We are looking to take the next step with the already-successful service through a crowdfunding campaign. I would love to have you on our backing team on Kickstarter. Please consider pledging an amount after reading more here: http://bit.ly/swagonkickstarter.

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